Friday, January 29, 2016

Sign Language (ASL)

I've got my PTA license but no job, so I'm staying busy by learning American Sign Language. I've always been fascinated by it, it's one of my New Years Resolutions, and I thought it would be beneficial to my career if I could treat deaf patients.

How to Get Started
The first thing I did was study how to learn a second language. I spent a lot of time on The guy on there learns new languages in 3 months by completely immersing himself. He actually lived in different countries, but for those of us who don't have that option it means finding yourself classes and a language partner or private tutor. (More about that later)

How Much Do I Have To Know
Considering you probably know about 20,000 words in your native language, it can feel overwhelming trying to learn a new language. From what I've found,3000 words account for about 95% of the words used in everyday conversations and writing. That's not quite so bad.

Where to Start
Start with 100 of the most common words in the language and try to have a conversation with them. FluentIn3Months would say have a conversation the first day you start learning a new language, but I'm not in a race to learn and I don't have those resources.

Where to Learn
I found a site that has 300 common ASL signs with animations. I decided to focus on learning these first as they'd allow me to have a small talk conversation about family, work, and school. (I learned a few other words like speak and dog that weren't on that list.)
Go to your local library to check out all their DVD& book resources on the language to compare.
There is an ASL personal enrichment class (not for credit) at my local community college, but it doesn't start until March. 
There are free sign language classes at a church with a deaf ministry near me. I am waiting for them to post their spring dates and I'll be joining that.
There are classes at the deaf resources center near me as well.
YouTube is a great resources as well.
In summary check out your: libraries, community colleges, churches, internet, and resource centers for the community that speaks your chosen language. If there are no options, then I would purchase DVDs, books and for spoken languages: CDs and podcasts.

How Can I Practice
iTalki is a great resource. You set up a profile and indicate your native language and what language you want to learn. Then you can connect with professional instructors, informal tutors or language exchange partners (they want to learn your native language and you want to learn theirs, so you learn from each other). Language exchange partners are free; it's just a matter of finding someone willing. Professional instructors and informal tutoring cost money, but the most I've seen is $13/hr. I've seen as low as $5/hr for a native speaker of Tamil.

iTalki Experience
I had my first ASL private lesson today. For ASL, we have to use Skype but spoken languages can get away without the video part. I was a little nervous because webcams make me uncomfortable and I'd never really used one before. But my teacher was a professional interpreter and answered all my questions about grammar and proper signs. She taught me new words and I tried very hard to keep up with her signing and understand her. I think I'm decent with signing the words I know, but I need a LOT of practice with the other side of the conversation, figuring out what the other person is signing.

Overall it was a good experience and I will be using that teacher again. She was very patient with me. Right now I think once a week private Skype sessions is affordable and reasonable. Hopefully those church classes will be available soon, too, so I can have extra practice. Tomorrow I'll be near the central library, so I'm stopping in to get some books and DVDs.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Advanced Obedience Week 5 & 6

Ongoing series of posts about what to expect in a Petsmart Advanced Obedience Class:
Week 1 & 2
Week 3 & 4

For weeks 5 & 6 we continued to work on long distance stays. I was able to put Buster in a down-stay at the back of Petsmart, walk to the front door, around the edge of the store and all the way back to him. People passed him while he was waiting on me, there were plenty of distractions, but he stayed put.

We worked on heeling with distractions, including next to another dog, with people squeaking toys, bending down to talk to him, and doing wild motions like jumping up and down. And he continued to heel every time.

We worked on "heel up". He is sitting in front of me I say "heel up" and he walks around my right side, comes from behind me to sit politely to my left so we can heel. 

We didn't have a graduation ceremony since Buster and the other dog had already taken this class before, but I did ask for a diploma.

I taught him to make his eyes green in pictures. Smart dog.

 We will be taking the Therapy Dog class at Petsmart in the next few weeks. Very excited.

Licenses & Job Search Tips

I took my boards to get licensed by the state to practice physical therapy on January 13. It was the hardest test ever (NCPTE). There are 4 hours, 200 questions and 4 sections (50 questions each section). You may review any question in your current section, but once you submit and move on to the next section of 50 questions, you can not go back to a previous section. 50 questions total are un-scored practice questions to determine whether they should be included in future tests. You don't know which 50, though, and on the really hard ones I kept thinking "I hope this one doesn't count!".

I felt like the dumbest person ever after I left that test. I immediately went to school to pick up my diploma and stopped by my department to tell my professors how dumb I am. Every graduate of the program for 10 years has passed the boards on the first try and I said "Not this year! I failed." But they told me what I was feeling is normal and that they were confident I passed. I was not.

I'd also like to mention the PEAT (Practice Examination Assessment Tool) offered by the FSBPT (The Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy) for $100. It comes with a practice test and a retired exam (the questions were onced used on the real exam). 99% of PTs who pass the retired exam pass their actual boards. 96% of PTAs who pass the retired exam pass their actual boards. There were 4 questions on my actual boards that I recognized from the retired PEAT I took, but overall I felt the PEAT was way too easy compared to the real thing. (You can read the entire article about how well the PEAT predicts success here.

I used the PTA Exam Study Book by Scott Giles because our professor required we buy it. Comes with 3 online practice exams that give you score reports to break down your strengths and weaknesses. This book is not as comprehensive as I would like. There were things asked on the PEAT and the real Boards that were not covered in this book. 

I lived in agony from Jan 13 until January 21 when we got our results. I watched countless movies to distract me. I would get so anxious at night when I was trying to sleep my heart would race and my chest hurt from feeling like my heart was going to burst. I'd get so nervous I felt weak in the knees and like I was going to pass out. I think I cried once. I went over in my head how I would react when I saw that "Fail" on my scores and how ashamed I would be.

I woke up on January 21 to 8 text messages telling me scores were up. So the first place I went was to Verify a Therapist at the ncptboard website and my name wasn't up there. Can't even describe what I felt when I thought I had failed. Luckily I went to the fsbpt website and saw I passed. Took a while for me to stop shaking from thinking I failed but I soon moved on to jumping up and down and screaming with joy when my name finally showed up on the ncptboard site and I knew it was official.

 I am now a Licensed Physical Therapist Assistant in the state of North Carolina! 

I also spent that agonizing week pouring over and highly recommend it to anyone searching for a job or dealing with work-related issues. I completely rewrote my cover letter based on that blog's advice and am very proud of it.
Amazing Site!

There are two rules from this site I'm definitely going to implement:
  1. The Magic Question to blow away an interviewer: "Thinking back to people who have been in this position previously, what differentiated the ones who were good from the ones who were really great?"
  2. Your cover letter should address what you can offer the company. Why should they want you? At this point, they don't care about what YOU want. It also should not repeat what's in your resume. It should provide information about the applicant that will never be available from a resume — personal traits and work habits. How to write a cover letter

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

First Impressions

I had my first interview for a physical therapist assistant job. I had no idea what to expect but it turned out to be the most challenging interview I'd ever been on. The questions really caught me off guard and I had no time to consider how I might be coming off personality/body language wise. I did dress for success, though. 

Got a great outfit at Maurices.

This jacket in black

The questions he asked were so hard. I hadn't prepared anything because I had no idea what to expect:
Tell me about a good idea you had that you saw through from start to finish.
Tell me about a time you had a conflict with a coworker that ended badly.
How do you keep up with the latest developments in physical therapy?
Tell me about a time you had to learn something quickly.

Before I go on my next interview, I'll prepare some better answers. 

Update: I did not get the job.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Advanced Obedience: Week 3 & 4

This is a continued post chronicling Buster's Advanced Obedience class at Petsmart. Weeks 1 and 2 are here. There was a 2 week interval between week 3 and 4 due to the holidays.
Week 5 & 6

Week 3: We worked on 
  • long-distance, out of site stays again. 
  • heeling side by side with another dog
  • leave it using high value treats
  • come when called with distractions (yummy food on the floor) 
  • bow
Buster did excellent with all of this. The Shiba Inu in class with us was very jealous when it was Buster's turn to be called to come through the "valley of yummy treats" (which he had to ignore. The Shiba let out a scream to express her displeasure at not coming with Buster, which scared him but he came to me anyway after giving the Shiba a 'what the heck' look. Very cute. 

Week 4: We worked on
  • heeling side by side with another dog, with distractions (next to the aquariums)
  • come when called with distractions (yummy food on the floor) 
  • back up
  • "heel up" dog starts on opposite side he heels, then goes behind you and sits down on the side he heels

Friday, January 1, 2016

Lost and Found

While at my parent's house tonight, Buster was outside in the fenced in backyard. My mom opened the gate to bring the trash can in and Buster bolted. He's never done this before. My mom came and got me, my dad joined in and my neighbor and we walked through the neighborhood, I drove around, we called and called for him and nothing.
Why would you ever leave this amazing yard?

As my dad and I were driving around again, my mom calls. She says "I was outside and the fence was open. I turned around and he was sitting in the backyard like nothing had happened." Clearly he hadn't been in the yard for the past 30 minutes, but the little punk knew exactly where to come home. He was just in time for his dinner, got some special treats and lots of love, play, and attention. Why would any dog want to leave that?!
Our New Years kiss last night at a party

The thing I was most upset about was that I had just bought a Whistle GPS Monitor. The kit had been missing a part and I had waited 20 days to get a new rubber collar attachment and when that came the Whistle wouldn't work. I was frustrated with the situation, the lack of communication around the holidays and my nearing the end of my 30-day money back guarantee. So I returned the Whistle. If he had it on, we could have tracked him immediately.

Below you can see the spike in Buster's activity as he did some unsupervised exploring:
Buster's Activity with his non-GPS Whistle.
 So what can you do to protect your dog? 

  1. The first thing I purchased is a QR Code Slide-On Dog ID Tag from (I don't get money for this review). I chose the collar slide because it had less chance of having the code rubbed off by a collar tag and the slide is more noticeable.
QR Code Slide-On Dog ID Tag
Your QR Code brings up a detailed personal profile for your dog, where you can list basic contact information and even health concerns/special diet. But the part I liked best is that you'll get an email notification if anyone scans the dog's code and if they have GPS enabled on their smartphone, you'll receive a GPS location map of where the scan occurred. The downside is someone has to actually find your dog and scan it. This doesn't help if your dog is stuck somewhere and can't get to a person for help, as happened with my friend's Jack Russell Terrier.
(If you prefer a regular dog tag with a QR Code, they have those too for the same price:

      2. GPS Monitor: As I talked about above, Whistle has a GPS/Activity Monitor. You are required to sign up for GPS service (you can't just use it as an activity monitor like the previous version). It's $9.95/mo for month-to-month payment, 7.95/mo for a years service (which works out to $94.50), and 6.95/mo for 2 years service. So you're looking at almost a $200 up-front cost if you do the year's service plan because the Whistle is $79, although if you order directly from their site they often have specials.  I wish I could tell you how well it worked, but I never got to experience that. I love my Whistle Activity Monitor, so I know that feature is great. It allows different caretakers to have separate profiles linked with the dog's profile and syncs with the person's smartphone to show who spent time with the dog, as you can see in the picture of Buster's activity, above.
App available on iOS and Android.

Pod 2: This corkscrew sized tracker seems pretty cool. It uses AT&T and T-Mobile 2G cell phone service to monitor your dog's whereabouts. The first year of GPS service is free and the next year is $49, which is one of the cheaper prices. It also monitors activity & sleep, which is a fun feature. 
Pod 2
This one uses AA batteries which last up to 6 days, so hope you have rechargable batteries. App available on iOS and Android.
 $199, which ends up being comparable to the Whistle GPS once you've bought their GPS service. 

DogTelligent Collar As of right now, this is a pre-order. It replaces your dog's regular collar. It has an optional GPS service, which is nice if you decide you just want the activity monitor. There's a built-in ultrasound, vibration and speakers to talk to your dog, train him/her, and deter barking.It allows you to keep track of your dog's vet info, including storing photos of vet records. $120 preorder, $179.95 regular price. "Exact pricing for the service is yet to be determined but estimated at $4.95/mo." That'd be the lowest price yet. You can see some of the app screens for different features here.
Their IndieGoGo page is more informative than their website. Battery life is 7-14 days and is rechargable with their charger. The collar is aluminum and it looks like your dog would still need to wear a regular collar since there seems to be no place to attach tags or any leash but their special magnet one.

Nuzzle This is a pre-order as well, but this one promises no service fees for the GPS. It comes on its own collar, but is detachable so it can be placed on your existing collar. Monitors activity and location, comes with charger, attachement and base station. Battery life is 5 days. $189, but never any GPS service fee.
Their IndieGoGo page is more informative than their website. App available on iOS and Android.

I haven't decided what I'm going to do about a GPS tracker. I like the no service fees of the Nuzzle, but I hate to be a guinea pig on a new product. Will update once I decide.

Do you have an activity monitor or GPS on your pet? Tell me about it in the comments.